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Religion Rules Rome: From the Eyes of a Tourist

When tourists visit Rome, many choose to tour the Vatican  Museums because of their vast collection and rich Roman Catholic history. Catholicism is the dominant religion in Rome, but people may not realize that Rome is also home to Italy’s largest Sunni mosque. La Moschea, the Mosque of Rome, is located in Parioli, Rome, Italy and can accommodate up to 12,000 visitors. 

Italy, and more specifically the Vatican, is home to the Pope, so it makes sense why the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, and other religious landmarks attract tourists from all over the world. La Moschea offers a different and enriching experience for visitors.

Italy is home to approximately 1.4 million Muslims, in comparison to over 39 million Catholics. While the mosque is full on holidays like Ramadan, it does not attract the millions that the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica do year-round. 



When visiting the Vatican Museums, each room is filled with people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, some on personal trips and some on educational tours. To enjoy the captivating murals and mosaics one does not need to have a prior interest or connection to Catholicism.

However, enjoying these historical art pieces is not the easiest thing to do as the Vatican is crowded by throngs of tourists. Additionally, the bright colored paintings and gorgeous details in everything from the floor tiles to the ceilings are so visually overstimulating that it is difficult to fully comprehend the message of any singular piece of art. 

Walking through the Sistine Chapel is meant to be an emotional and spiritual experience for visitors, especially those of faith. Most importantly, it is supposed to be silent inside the chapel out of respect for the monument. On a recent tour, this was not the case. 

Tour guides spoke into headsets, tourists talked in stage whispers, and the museum staff repeated “silencio” and “no photo,” overpowering each of the other senses. It seemed as if many of the tourists came to see the famous artwork rather than respecting the Catholic religion. Many visitors were sneaking photos, which is prohibited in the Sistine Chapel.

Visiting La Moschea was a quieter tourist experience in comparison to the Vatican. Before walking through the entryway, visitors are required to remove their shoes before stepping foot onto the cushioned, carpeted floors of the mosque. Visitors must wear head coverings and be respectful of the traditions and expected behavior inside the mosque. When they are not, they may quickly be corrected by Muslims worshipping at the mosque. On a recent visit, students who had forgotten were swiftly reminded by a Muslim woman at the mosque to adhere to the head covering rule. 

Visiting La Moschea was a more relaxing sensory experience due to the comfort of the plush carpet underneath bare feet, and the calming silence inside the prayer room.





Passion emanated from Adam Ahmed Jacob Gibril, who is employed by the mosque to speak to tour groups. The motion in his hands and the bright smile on his face suggested he was there out of love for his culture.


Gibril shared the story of his travels across multiple different countries after leaving Sudan to escape war. He said he has stayed in Rome for the past 30 years and feels privileged to practice Islam at this mosque in the city of Rome.

La Moschea was a nice change of pace to visit as a non-member because the proper etiquette of visitors seems to be followed by many of its few guests, whereas in the Vatican this is not always the case. The famous landmarks and artwork inside the Vatican attract a larger interest among tourists, sometimes diminishing the actual religious significance behind the church. Through all of the similarities and differences from religious practices to architecture, a tourist’s experience at these landmarks are completely dependent on popularity and the respect of fellow visitors.

Picture of Hannah Barrett

Hannah Barrett

Hannah Barrett is a senior visual communications major, with a double minor in psychology and business administration. Hannah is passionate about travel and sharing the world around her through visual storytelling. She is excited to capture the colors of Italy and its historical architecture.

Picture of Eileen Cardona

Eileen Cardona

Eileen Cardona is a rising senior psychology major, minoring in criminology. Her interests include exercise, fashion, and trying out new foods. She is from Greenville, South Carolina and is excited to travel outside of the country for the first time and do as the romans do.

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